Does anyone else read the Hawker Centre Panel’s “recommendations” as a complete condemnation of the PAP Govt’s approach to hawker centres?
Strip away the fanciful ideas from the social activists and the fluff from the environmentalists and what you have is simple: hawkers should provide cheap food, rents should be kept low so hawkers can provide cheap food, hawker centres should be run by non-profit social enterprises so that food can be cheap, corporates should be disallowed from entering hawker centres because they cause prices to go up, and subletting should be disallowed because it causes profiteering.
In other words, like what I said three months ago, it’s all about what the Govt has failed to do for hawker centres– make hawker food cheap.
Who cares if hawker centres come with “green” features? Who cares if there are “eldercare centres” attached to a hawker centre? Who cares if there are organised tours to bring both locals and tourists to visit our hawker centres? Who cares if there are busking, cooking demonstrations or children’s activities at hawker centres– I’d rather have more seats!
Encourage hawkers to sell more “healthy” food? C’mon– stop telling hawkers what they should or should not do! Hawkers should be free to sell their char kway teow without someone discouraging them. In the same vein, those who want to sell organic food, vegetarian food, macrobiotic food, etc. should also be free to do so. It’s consumers who should decide with their wallets what hawkers should sell. Not the Govt, and certainly not some govt-appointed “panel”.
That’s what you get when you put environmentalists and social activists on a hawker centre “panel”– they all want to get their pet points in the final report.
In my view, the Govt is not stupid, it knows what to do if it really want to reduce the cost of hawker food– stop charging high rentals for hawker stalls, stop tendering out hawker stalls, stop the continual “upgrading” which they recover through higher rentals, stop trying to raise revenues through creative avenues such as “cleanliness grading” inspection fees, etc.
But the Govt can’t admit what it’s done over the last 40 years has been a complete mistake. So they need to find someone external to make “recommendations” which they then graciously “accept”. That’s a far better face-saving method for all concerned.